By Ali Mashraf

The Faculty of Law, University of Dhaka (DU) organized the fourth edition of the Law Faculty Open Discussion, titled ‘বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় ও রাষ্ট্র: University and State’ on October 31, 2018. Dr. Mohammad Azam, Associate Professor, Department of Bengali, DU graced the event as the Keynote Speaker while Professor Dr. Md. Rahmat Ullah, Dean, Faculty of Law, DU was present as the Guest of Honor.

At the onset, Mr. Syed Masud Reza, Assistant Professor of Law, DU, welcomed everyone to the event and introduced Dr. Mohammad Azam. Dr. Mohammad Azam began by giving an outline of his speech. He stated that whatever would be said in the course of his address on ‘State and University’ is a project of his with high idealism and as such, the audience needed to grasp his views rhetorically. Furthermore, he stated that the speech would contain some recommendations as to what measures the University of Dhaka should take leading to the celebration of its 100 years of foundation for transforming itself into a ‘university’.

The speaker at first explained his understanding of state and university to the audience. According to him, states are comprised of the struggles and interests of multiple communities while universities are conservative, rigid institutions that are detached from the public sentiments. However, he propounded that despite being two entirely different entities, state and university could still be thought of together. Dr. Azam then pointed out the similarities present between these two institutions in two aspects, viz. the existence of objectivity and the abundance of discourse.

Additionally, the speaker remarked that the main duty of universities towards its undergraduate students is two-fold: to familiarize them with the existing dominant discourses in the society so that they remain loyal to the state and to make them skillful enough to serve the various institutions of the state in future. Conversely, he observed that education in the post-graduation level is different where objectivity is maintained by way of discourse with old theses via referencing. He expressed his belief that citation of previous works by researchers in the post-graduation level was nothing but a form of discourse.

In the later part of his address, the speaker delved more into the relationship between state and university and cited the examples of Calcutta University and Jawaharlal Nehru University of India as well as Yunnan University of China. He commented that these universities were serving the purposes of the state by working together and fulfilling the state’s mandates. Dr. Azam also recommended A. P. J. Abul Kalam’s Wings of Fire to the audience for better understanding of the relationship between state and university and how the relationship could be strong and effective.

He then lamented over the fact that there is no such instance of our universities, even of the University of Dhaka, working in collaboration with the state. In conclusion, he suggested that now is the time for us to ponder over the possibilities of conjoint efforts of the state and university to further our state’s mandates. To do so, he added that institutional reconstructions of both the state and the university are essential. Dr. Azam submitted that if we are able to accomplish this, Bangladesh will go on to flourish as a state and our universities will finally transform into ‘universities’ in the truest sense.

The speech was followed by a Q&A session where the participants interacted with the speaker regarding their perspectives and reflections on the interrelationship between state and university and how the bond could be strengthened to achieve the objective that he spoke of.

Afterwards, Dr. Md. Rahmat Ullah presented a token of appreciation to Dr. Azam on behalf of the Faculty of Law. Dr. Rahmat Ullah thanked Dr. Azam for such an insightful speech and expressed the desire to host further open discussions on multidisciplinary issues in the upcoming days. Mr. Masud Reza then delivered his vote of thanks to the participants and concluded the event.

Law Faculty Open Discussion was initiated earlier in 2017 with a view to widening the horizon of knowledge of the university-going students. The discussion series aims to impart knowledge on various interdisciplinary issues and unconventional topics that are not usually covered in classroom lectures.

Ali Mashraf is a student of Law at University of Dhaka